What is it?
When the Audi A7 was introduced in 2010 its fastback coupé styling and five-door package proved to be a compelling combination.
Now Audi hopes to improve the A7’s popularity still further with a facelift and revised 3.0-litre TDI engines, including a high efficiency 3.0-litre TDI Ultra variant.
The standard 268bhp 3.0-litre TDI engine has been substantially upgraded to improve efficiency and reduce fuel consumption, and is being introduced to the A7 range for the first time.
Audi's Ultra version is calibrated to further optimise fuel consumption and CO2. There’s less power at 215bhp but torque is still a plentiful 295lb ft.
The trade-off is worth it in terms of economy though, with the Ultra returning 60.1mpg compared to 54.3mpg for the more powerful engine.
CO2 emissions are correspondingly lower too, at 122g/km rather than 136g/km. SCR (selective catalyst reduction) means the Ultra meets Euro 6 emissions standards and earns ‘clean diesel’ status too.
What's it like?
Despite further optimisation of the engine, there’s no sense that the Audi A7 Ultra is a green machine when driving. The engine is strong, flexible and lively when roused, responding with a subdued growl during hard acceleration.
On the flip side, the TDI is very refined too with no discernible vibration and at a 70mph cruise the engine turns over at a relaxed 2,100rpm. An all-new, dry-sump S tronic dual-clutch gearbox makes its debut in the A7 Ultra and is swift-shifting and smooth.
Good quality roads on the test route threw up few challenges in terms of surface quality and in those conditions the A7’s ride proved supple, with only moderate noise from its 255/50 R19 Pirelli P Zeros. There’s an almost uncanny absence of wind noise too.
The steering is no thriller and initial response is relaxed to say the least. Feel errs towards the steady and stable at a B-road pace, not just at motorway speeds, but on the plus side the A7 grips tenaciously in bends with only moderate body roll.
In the Drive Select menu the Efficiency setting dials-in a sluggish throttle response to filter inefficient driver input, while Dynamic sharpens everything such that keener drivers may just leave it there.
The facelift includes the addition of Audi’s single frame grille, changes to the bumpers and trapezoidal tailpipe apertures. The A7 now has LED headlamps as standard but there’s also the option of the very latest technology Matrix LED lamps which dim individual diodes in the cluster to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic.
High quality materials are lavished on a beautifully trimmed interior as is usual with Audi, although some of the available choices, like wood trim on the test car, seem at odds with the sporty exterior.
Infotainment systems comprise the latest Audi MMI (multi media interface) and there’s an optional Bang & Olufsen version too.